Tim Burton’s 2010 reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland acted as both an often misguided sequel with a new twist on the classic story, one that had already been solidified in the public’s mind thanks to Disney’s 1951 animated film. Having already used many of the ‘good bits’ from the sequel’s source material the first time out – from the Jabberwocky to Tweedledum and Tweedledee – ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS takes its own direction under returning writer Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Maleficent).
Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is now a ship’s captain returning to London after exploring trade routes in China, but still finds a patriarchal society she has no place in. With the appearance of an old friend, she is led through an enchanted mirror to find herself in the familiar Wonderland. However, with the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) distraught by his past, Alice must confront Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen) to gain the Chronosphere and travel back into Wonderland’s past. Yet her old nemesis the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) is also after the device, and it literally becomes a race against time.
With The Muppets director James Bobin taking over the helm, the aesthetic grotesqueries that preoccupied Burton take a back seat to a more straightforward (or is it straight backwards?) narrative. Like an episode of the modern Doctor Who, blended with a dose of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Woolverton builds her script around a series of set-pieces in new and familiar parts of Wonderland. It gives viewers a chance to revisit with some of the more memorable characters from the first film, but does so through a new storyline about the Red Queen and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and a rift that formed in their childhood. For a film that concerns itself with time, there are some serious pacing issues in the slow first half, but once it gets going, it cracks along at a pace, wisely toning down Depp’s Hatter in favour of Cohen’s surprisingly complex anti-villain. It’s by no means a classic Wonderland adaptation, and there are some incredibly scary parts for younger audiences, but there is more of a flavour of Carroll about ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS than its predecessor.
2016 | US | Dir: James Bobin | Writers: Linda Woolverton | Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Rhys Ifans, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall | Distributor: Disney | Running time: 112 minutes | Rating:★★★ (6/10)